The Summer Day

The Summer Day

Mary Oliver

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

view the whole poem here

On the cusp of solstice, this poem seems like the perfect reminder, an invitation, to pay attention to how we are living.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is./I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down/into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,/how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,/which is what I have been doing all day. The poet tells us she doesn’t know exactly what a prayer is, then tells us some of the ways in which she prays, the ways in which she pays attention to the natural world around her. At the beginning of this poem, she describes a grasshopper eating sugar out of her hand in such a way that one cannot help but imagine it in one’s own hand.

Tell me, what else should I have done? she asks, even as she answers bluntly why it is so important to pay attention to what is around you: Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?  This much-quoted question you may well have encountered before, a quintessential question for each of us to consider. After hearing how she has paid attention to her world, it is such an invitation to join her in being ‘idle and blessed’ as she strolls through the fields.

As you greet these summer days, how will you pay attention to the world around you? What are you doing with your one wild and precious life?

4 thoughts on “The Summer Day

  1. Reblogged this on Quillfyre and commented:
    I commented on this post over on Jan Fall’s Heart Poems blog: Mary Oliver is one of my favourite poets. In this poem, she captures so well in her last question that elusive thing that I have not yet managed to capture for myself.
    That thing I need to grasp before I too die too soon, never having made peace with the journey.
    Carol

    Like

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